Thursday, October 29, 2009

Make an Easy, Luxurious Tied Quilt for Someone Special

I made this beautiful, luxurious lap quilt for my adult son a couple of years ago and thought I’d share. It’s so easy, just about anyone could make it! You don’t even have to have a sewing machine although finishing the edges will take less time if you do.

I’ve posted a how-to on Quilting and Sewing with Kids (QSK link below) with the materials list and specific instructions. You can seriously complete this project in less than a day so may want to make several as gifts this Christmas. I found the furry fleece on clearance and used a top sheet and yarn that I already had so my cost was minimal.

As you can see, I also made a matching throw pillow to go with the lap quilt. The pillow cover is simply a long rectangle of the furry fleece that overlaps in the back to provide access to insert a pillow form. I turned under the ends of the rectangle to provide a finished edge and then folded it, right sides together, to the correct size with the ends overlapping. Once I’d stitched along the raw edges, it was done! Now how easy is that?

Here are a couple of photos with additional detail.

Photo credit goes to my delightful SIL, Karen Balvin, owner of Sunlitway Photography.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

5 Wishes - Worth a Read

I was recently introduced to 5 Wishes – How Answering One Simple Question Can Make Your Dreams Come True by Gay Hendricks. He relates how a chance conversation literally changed his life from that moment on. In this conversation, he was told to imagine he was on his deathbed and was asked whether his life had been a complete success. The answer is yes or the answer is no. If the answer is no, the next question is about what things he wished had happened that would have made it a success.

Not wanting to spoil the book, I’ll just say that he came up with 5 things – hence the title, 5 Wishes. As this conversation took place about three decades ago, he has a lot of progress to share. This book is certainly worth reading and even includes a chapter dedicated to helping readers discover their own 5 wishes. Definitely a lot of food for thought!

Please Note: As an Amazon Associate, I will receive a little kickback if anyone clicks this ad and purchases the book. As always, unless you prefer to own a copy, check with your local library first and see if it's available for loan.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Best Diet Book Ever!

Quite by accident, I’ve discovered what I consider to be the best diet book ever! And I’ve read a LOT of diet books. Lose Weight and Stay Slim – Secrets of Fad-Free Dieting by Eve Cameron is part of the 52 Brilliant Ideas series published in the UK by The Infinite Ideas Company Ltd. If the other books in the series are anything like this one, I want them all! (Well, several of them anyway.)

Great Layout

Separated into 52 stand-alone ideas, this book can be read from any point. Just flip to the idea that most interests you at the moment. Each idea includes reference to another idea so you can go further, if desired. Each also includes a quote, a supplemental idea and a Q&A page. Read the ideas one right after the other, enjoy a few at a sitting, or take the time to put each into practice by choosing one each week over the course of a full year. However you read this book and implement the ideas presented, you won’t be disappointed!

Metric Conversion

As the 52 Brilliant Ideas series is published in the UK, most calculations are done with metric measurements. This should not present a problem as conversions are referenced part of the time and those that aren’t shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out.

Get a Copy

I was lucky and got my copy for free from TitleTrader, the online book swap site where I’m a member. I’ve included an Amazon link to this book and another I found on Amazon by the same author, Drop a Dress Size. In looking through the table of contents on the second book, it appears to contain much of the same information so might be a good alternative for anyone wishing to take advantage of Amazon’s Super Saver Shipping. Not sure when I post links to items that are only available through other vendors whether, as an Amazon Associate, I get a kickback from purchases generated by my links. I wanted to mention the possibility, however, as it’s important to me to disclose any potential financial benefit I might receive through this blog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Money for College

Seems there’s a lot of information floating around the Internet about a new Obama program to help single moms go back to school. In researching what this “new” program might be, I’ve come to the conclusion the “new” program is nothing more than an expansion of the federal Pell Grant program. It appears that the intention of these articles is to simply draw folks in so they can be redirected to a site that offers entry into a drawing for a $10,000 scholarship in exchange for registering with the site. Not having gone further, I don’t know what they’re trying to sell but it must be something!

Pell Grants and other Government Financial Aid

Applying for college financial aid is easy and you don’t need anyone’s help. You also don’t need to be a single mom. To start, you must fill out and submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Most of the information required is taken from your federal tax return. Most need-based financial aid is determined through the calculations resulting from the information submitted. Once the college financial aid office receives your FAFSA results, you will be sent an award letter outlining the types and amount of financial aid you can expect to receive.

Private Scholarships

There are often private scholarships available. Check with the financial aid office of the college you will be attending. Scholarship information may be available through the college website, as well. Often these scholarships are based on area of study or some demographic factor so is sure you meet the requirements before submitting an application.

Scholarship Search Service

While a scholarship search service may be convenient, there is absolutely nothing they can do for you that you can’t do for yourself. So if there’s a fee involved, save yourself some money and take a little time to research what’s available to you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Few Ways to Make Money at Home

Generating some income from home is a key part of my early retirement strategy. Since leaving paid employment 7+ years ago at the ripe old age of 44, I’ve created a couple of small money streams (ok – trickles) that work for me. It didn’t happen overnight and actually I’m just now really getting into the swing of things. So patience is a plus – there are no get-rich-quick schemes here!

Cash In On Your Hobby

First, I turned my quilting hobby into a business. I started by finishing quilts for others and then branched out into creating custom memorial quilts, which I’ve discovered is where my true passion lies. Over the years, I’ve also sold a few baby quilts and other sewn items through local venues. I haven’t made a ton of money but my original intention was just to support my quilting habit and I’m doing ok on that front. The point is, most people have a hobby that can be used to generate at least a small amount of income. What’s yours? If you’re having a hard time figuring out ways to make your hobby pay, leave a comment and we can brainstorm some ideas together.

Selling Books Online

As discussed in a previous post, I recently discovered selling books online. One of the boxes I shipped off last week has been received and my PayPal account is $12 healthier. Of note is that it should have been $15 but one of the books was rejected. Still yet, not bad for decluttering my home and making a little money in the process. The other package of three books netted me another $4.25. Keep in mind that these books were destined for donation so the amount I got, though small, was like found money! And the buyers paid the shipping so it didn’t cost me anything. I will continue to sell books as the opportunity arises and I suggest others do the same.

Online Writing Opportunities

In the past few months I’ve gotten on the online writing bandwagon. I found out about this quite by accident and I’m so glad I did! It’s fun, hones my writing skills and keeps me learning new things. The sites I’m concentrating on right now are Textbroker and eHow. There are many other sites – these are just the two with which I am familiar. For a wealth of information on these and other online writing opportunities, visit the No Job For Mom blog which is where I’ve found out at least 90% of what I know on the subject.

Textbroker pays up front. Clients post orders and authors choose which assignments they’d like to complete. Payment is made through PayPal and can be requested twice per month providing there’s a minimum of $10 on account. Authors are rated and may only accept assignments at or below the level of that rating. I’ve been with Textbroker since late July and have completed about 75 assignments. My earnings to date exceed $360 and since my goal is to earn $25/week there, I’m ahead of schedule despite being away from home for a few weeks in Aug and Sept. Pay ranges from .007 to .014 per word for levels 2-4. Level 5 pays much higher but appears difficult to attain and I rarely see any assignments listed at that level, anyway. I’m happy with my level 4 and will continue with Textbroker for the foreseeable future. I’m not getting rich but earning $1,300/year ($25/wk x 52 weeks) at my leisure in my jammies is nothing to sneer at. I figure it finances Christmas and birthday presents for the all kids and grands with a little left over for a trip north to visit those that live farther away.

With eHow you can earn residual income. (Update: revenue share prgram at eHow has been discontinued.) I joined eHow in late July and have posted just 14 articles so far. I was trying to post more over the past few days but the system is so glitchy right now that I decided to better use my time elsewhere. I’m thrilled with my eHow earnings to date, however, even though they total less than $5. Felicia at No Job For Mom earned almost $2,700 in residual income over the course of a year. I don’t foresee that level of earnings for myself as I am not posting at the same rate – I believe she did 100 articles in her first 30 days. I do see the earning potential, however, and am anxiously awaiting a fix on the system so I can get back with the eHow program.

I’m in the process of researching other avenues that might generate a little income and will post about any that pan out. I don’t do multi-level marketing schemes or party plans or sales of any sort so don’t ever expect to see information of that type here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Developing the Daily Aspirin Habit

Saw an episode of Dr. Oz's new show where he was speaking on women’s health. He recommended aspirin daily – 162 mg (two baby aspirins) taken at breakfast with a half glass of warm water before and a half glass of warm water afterwards. Finally! Something I can actually fit into my existing routine!

Old Advice Didn’t Work

Due to my age and slightly elevated blood pressure, I’ve been trying to develop the daily aspirin habit for years. Quite a long time ago, I saw another Oprah where Dr. Oz indicated that to do any good for blood pressure, the aspirin had to be taken at bedtime. Well, that didn’t work for me. Not only was there no easy and logical place to slip aspirin taking into my regular evening routine, when I did remember to take it, it upset my stomach and disturbed my sleep. Not good.

New Advice to the Rescue!

The beauty of the new advice is how easy it is to implement. I’m a total creature of habit. I do exactly the same thing every morning that I’m home. I have a glass of water while my tea water heats. Then I have tea, breakfast and more tea - and all while at my computer. So now I have the baby aspirin on my computer desk where I can’t forget if I try and I take two aspirin right in the middle of the second round of tea. How cool is that?

But Will It Lower My Blood Pressure?

Good question. Maybe I misunderstood or am misremembering Dr. Oz’s previous advice. Maybe there’s been new research. Maybe the aspirin in the morning is for some other health reason, not blood pressure. Who knows? But at this point it doesn’t matter. I’ll just keep taking it and see what impact it has on my blood pressure readings, if any. At least now I finally have a way to easily incorporate it into my day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Financial Honesty – First Step Toward Financial Freedom

The old saying “the truth will set you free” is never truer than when referring to finances. So many people spend money they don’t have to buy things they don’t need and can’t afford to impress people they don’t even know. Instead of presenting themselves honestly to the world, they choose to present an image instead. To become financially free, honesty is essential.

Get Honest with Yourself

"Truth Creates Money, Lies Destroy It" is the first chapter in The Laws of Money by Suze Orman. In this chapter, she cautions against living a financial cover-up, pointing out that “The truth does not change no matter how much you wish it would or what you do to obscure it.” Basically, the truth is the truth. To be financially free, you must be honest with yourself about your financial situation. You must face how you got where you are today and take steps to correct the financial mistakes you’ve made and make wiser decisions from here on.

Get Honest with Others

Honesty with others does not mean disclosing details of your financial life to perfect strangers. It doesn’t even mean disclosing the details to your friends. What it does mean is not spending money that you don’t have or would more wisely use elsewhere. It means having the courage to say no to expenditures without guilt or embarrassment. It means demonstrating who you are by your actions rather than giving a false impression through material goods.

Modify Your Vocabulary

Remove “I can’t afford it” from your vocabulary. Replace with “That’s not where I choose to spend money right now” or some similar phrase. Financial honesty is not about deprivation but rather about freedom – the freedom of choice, freedom from debt and freedom from financial worries. Just because you’re focused on paying off credit card debt and forego a new outfit or turn down a ski weekend this year does not mean that you won’t have the resources for these things in the future. Modifying your vocabulary to affirm your freedom of choice rather than affirming a lack of money empowers you in your quest for financial freedom.

Bottom Line

There is no getting around it - truth is the foundation to any effort to become financially free. If you sincerely seek to portray truth at all times, your finances will improve. It may be a slow process – you probably didn’t get where you are no overnight. How long did it take you to get in the current situation? It will probably take at least that long to get out. But it’s worth it as there is nothing quite like freedom from financial stress!

Included here is an Amazon link to purchase The Laws of Money. I have an Amazon Affiliate account so if you buy one by clicking on this link, I’ll get a little kickback. But if you'd just like to read it rather than own it, check your local library or ask around - a friend or family member may already have copy that you could borrow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

One of the Many Joys of Retirement

Just returned from spending a couple of days with my youngest grandchild. He got an ear infection last week and his mom needed to get back to work but wanted him to be able to stay home a couple more days. So Granny to the rescue. He's such a sweetie and we had a lot of fun together! The freedom to drop everything and hang out with a grandkid or two may just be my favorite part of being retired. Wish I had some pictures to share but although I've figured out how to take them with my cell phone, I have yet to discover how to transfer them to my computer.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Strength is a Must!

Read a tip on RealAge today titled The Benefits of Strong Hands and Knees. Basically, people 70+ with a strong grip and strong knees are less prone to being hospitalized. And we’re talking a 50%-70% reduction in risk! So taking a little action toward strengthening your grip and knees can go a long way. And it’s never too late to start!

Try a Door Gym

I’ve had a door gym for several years. In fact, I’ve about worn out my second one (the bands do eventually get stretched out). I use it just about every day that I’m home and have developed a routine that works for me. I combine some of the door gym exercises with a little yoga and other stretching. As I’m not out to build hulking muscles but just want to maintain strength and flexibility, the door gym is perfect for me. While the exercises I do will definitely help strengthen my knees, I doubt I’m doing anything that impacts my grip. Guess I’d better come up with something to add!

Where to Get One

If you’d like a door gym, they can be found for under $40. The brand I have is Altus and I’ve included an Amazon link so that you can see what it looks like. It’s really easy to set up and use - just hooks over the top of a door. I have an Amazon Affiliate account so if you buy one by clicking on this link, I’ll get a little kickback. But check around first. Your local Wal-Mart may have them cheaper. Or try Bed, Bath & Beyond, especially if you get coupons from them in the mail. I’m sure they’re available a lot of other places – those are just the retailers I know about personally. With Christmas coming up, they may even be on sale. And don’t forget thrift stores or yard sales. All kinds of exercise equipment gets purchased on a whim and then re-sold for next to nothing.

Please Note: I’ve included a link to the door gym, which I use every day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

100 Things Challenge Revived! Care to Join Me?

Got reminded today of my original blog – the one that quit letting me upload pictures last Dec so I took my marbles and went elsewhere to play. Anyway, someone stumbled on it and left a comment last month but the moderation notice got lost in my inbox until today. So I visited my own neglected blog and remembered that I’m in the middle of the 100 Things Challenge!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Make a Little Money at Home Selling Your Used Books

A couple of days ago I ran across a cool site that will help you turn your used books into cash. At you simply enter ISBNs from the books you’re interested in selling and Bookscouter searches 37 sites that buy used books to find the best offer. The sites are all rated (just click on the site’s name once you get a list of offers) and you can read comments posted by other people who have sold books there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Can You Really Lower Blood Pressure by Eating Chocolate?

Actually, the answer may be yes!

A study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2007 showed that eating dark chocolate daily over the course of 18 weeks effectively lowered blood pressure – and without weight gain. Now is that good news, or what? But not just any chocolate will do – it has to be DARK, and only a small amount is needed. (Sad, I know.)

Dark Chocolate 101

Cacao is the name of the plant from which cocoa is made. Dark chocolate has a high percentage of cacao or cocoa, terms which are used interchangeably when labeling chocolate – so don’t get confused! For our purposes the chocolate needs to be at least 70% cacao. Unfortunately this means that Hershey’s Extra Dark (60%) and Cacao Reserve (65%), both of which are (readily available just about anywhere candy is sold, both fall short. But do not despair! There are plenty of options, just not the Hershey brand.

Dark Chocolate and Blood Pressure

So what’s the deal with dark chocolate and blood pressure anyway? Well, apparently there’s something in that chocolate that causes the release of nitric oxide that in turn causes blood vessels to dilate which increases blood flow. The other good news is that improved circulation has also been linked to improved memory! Now couldn’t we all use that as the years go by?

Consult Your Doctor

Let your doctor in on what you’re doing. Make sure you continue to take whatever blood pressure medications have already been prescribed. Do not even think about adjusting your dose without your doctor’s blessing! Remember that dark chocolate does not replace hypertension medications, but a little each day may help reduce blood pressure.

Putting it to the Test

To test whether dark chocolate will work for you -
  • Buy some of the appropriate chocolate. Read the label to ensure it contains at least 70% cacao (or cocoa). Readily available options include DOVE® Extra Dark Chocolate (71% cacao), Ghiradelli Twilight Delight (72% cacao), and Lindt Excellence Intense Dark (70% cocoa) or Extra Dark (85% cocoa).
  • Once you have your chocolate, check how many squares are in the bar and determine how long it will last. The amount to eat each day is only about ¼ ounce (yes, I was disappointed, too). For example, a 3.5-ounce Lindt bar with 10 squares (about ⅓ ounce each) will last 10 days.
  • Enjoy one piece of dark chocolate each day. Sit down and relax. Play soft music, if you like. Really enjoy your chocolate!
  • Buy more dark chocolate, as needed, and continue this experiment for 4½ months. Be sure to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis and track your results.
More Info

A variety of information is available online. Just do a search for 'dark chocolate and blood pressure' and you should come up with the latest info.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Early Retirement Red Letter Day!

Today is it - my first official day as a retiree! Although I haven’t received the official confirmation letter yet, I did receive acknowledgement of my application and show as a pending retiree on the pension plan’s website. I’d like to share the process through which I chose to take my retirement at 51½ rather than waiting until 55.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Getting Ready for Christmas

Already? It’s only October! True, but early preparations save stress later on. I must be already feeling it beings I had a dream that I was in a store frantically shopping right before closing time on Christmas Eve. In my dream I wondered how I was going to get the presents wrapped and delivered, especially those that had to be sent out of state, so I was much relieved when I awoke and realized I still have plenty of time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Free Time Journal – Read and Enjoy!

I recently learned about a cool vacation option available to our neighbors across the Atlantic. In reviewing Free Time Journal by Derek L. Porteous, I was transported into another world, able to experience the beautiful countryside through the diary he kept during 5-months of traveling along the English canal system aboard his narrowboat, “Free Time.”